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First asthma pill in two decades could treat condition by reducing airway muscle

Published on 14/02/19 at 03:04pm

Researchers at the University of Leicester alongside colleagues in Vancouver, Canada, have revealed data that supports the efficacy of an investigational pill for the treatment of asthma. The oral, selective prostaglandin D2 receptor antagonist, known as Fevipiprant, is the first of its kind for two decades.

The therapy works by reducing the amount of smooth muscle in the ling of the airway, which can alleviate reduced airflow into the lungs and lowers the risk of asthma attacks. Professor Chris Brightling, a Consultant Respiratory Physician at Leicester's Hospitals and Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Leicester, explained: "Our research shows for the first time that Fevipiprant not only reduces inflammation in the airways, but also reduces the amount of muscle in the lining of the airway. This is likely to explain some of the effects seen in the symptoms and breathing tests following treatment.

"From previous trials conducted we found that Fevipiprant led to improvements in symptoms, breathing tests, inflammation and also helped to repair the lining of patients' airways. Our latest research gives us a better understanding of the mechanisms behind the efficacy of the drug and how changes in one part of the airway wall can impact on others. Our findings suggest that Fevipiprant could have positive long-term effects upon the progression of the disease through remodelling, as well as improve symptoms and reduce attacks," he added.

Dr Himanshu Kaul, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Biomedical Engineering at the University of British Columbia, added: "Our computer model represents a milestone towards patient-specific models in respiratory medicine that has the potential to help design new drugs and optimise existing therapies. Eventually, it could play a role in furthering precision medicine by helping predict the optimal intervention tailored to individual patients given their genomic information."

The research, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, Novartis and AirPROM, could eventually lead to the availability of a drug-based solution to a condition that affects around half a million patients in the UK alone, and for which the NHS offers no such treatment. It could also reduce the need for patients to rely on oral steroids, which can present harmful side-effects such as osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure and weight gain.

"Fevipiprant has the potential to significantly improve the treatment of asthma patients who do not achieve disease control on optimised inhaled therapy." commented Dr Linda Armstrong, Head of the Respiratory Development Unit at Novartis. "This trial result is an encouraging step forward. We look forward to the completion of our currently ongoing phase 3 clinical development program and hope to make this once daily oral treatment with fevipiprant available to patients as quickly as possible."

Matt Fellows

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